The folks at Helios Labs must have been reading my mind all the way from Thailand, as I perused the holiday aisles searching for a big gift with some wow factor — a challenge that grows monumentally each year. As the idea for purchasing an aquarium began to spring forth, so did all the questions and concerns surrounding being a new fish owner. What about filtering and maintenance? Will it smell? How complicated is this? And the biggie: who would take care of this fish if we went to visit with the grandparents for a few days?
You simply can’t pack up the fish bowl or aquarium and go; at least, I don’t want to (now there’s a vision). And I don’t want to bother a neighbor or a relative and use up all my favors simply to have someone drop everything or drive across town twice a day to sprinkle a few golden fish flakes for an animal they have no emotional attachment to, and leave. With all that in mind, the fish idea came and went in about thirty seconds.
The automatic pet feeder for your hamster, cat, dog, and more has been in existence for a long time (I’m envisioning the recycled two-liter bottle turned upside down into a plastic device), but what about the fish? How could the most simple of pets be the most difficult to sustain when you have a business trip planned or want to jaunt off on a week-long camping trip to the Keys?
Need is always a great motivator, and the feeding of fish apparently occurs to many others during the holidays as well. The design team at Helios Labs, based in Bangkok, was in need of making sure their fish were fed over the holidays and they had a very short time to come up with an automated feeding system for their aquaponics project. Turning to the 3D printer for their first utilitarian design, Helios Labs was able to come up with a small but effective 3D printed prototype that could feed their fish in their aquaponics system for up to one month.
To feed the fish at established times during the day, the Helios team employed Arduino software and a modified 9g micro servo, which you can find the details on here. With the servo controlling the desired levels of food to be distributed, they established feeding times in the early afternoon and later in the evening. The team was able to quiet and ‘detach’ the servo in between feeding times as they noted the modified servo “would remain continuously powered and jittering in between feeding time” due to ‘creep.’ Using Arduino software was the quickest way to accomplish their needs for feeding time and having the servo go quiet in the down time.
Designed in Sketchup8, and standing at 140 mm tall, the fish-feeding prototype was 3D printed with supports, at build dimensions of 2 mm or more, for durability and to prevent fragile walls and breakage. The auger and servo required modifications, and will probably be further modified also as Helios Labs continues perfecting their fish feeder and aquaponics system. They will release current files for the fish feeder on request. If you are interested, click here to contact Helios Labs.
Due to need, the team went from having only used 3D printing to make prototypes of key chains to using it out of necessity for their automated feeding system, quite successfully. They are still perfecting the prototype and we look forward to reporting on further progress regarding their work with 3D design, printing, and aquaponics. This also means revisiting the idea for purchasing that home aquarium.
Headquartered in Thailand, Helios labs specializes in graphics, interior design, and product design. They also produce a news publication, BIT Magazine, where they offer information regarding synthetic biology, technology, and other relevant news regarding their interest in open source and DIY design.
Have you 3D printed any automated devices like this using 3D printing and Arduino software? Would you purchase the 3D printed fish feeding device? Tell us your thoughts in the 3D Printed Automated Feeder forum over at 3DPB.com.